The last word on unified storage

Dell and Microsoft stitch together file and volume serving on Windows

This year in storage seems to be ending exactly as it started -- very busily. And it's a pattern that will continue in 2007, no doubt about that.

Some of the year-end buzz is around SAS-based storage devices. Early adopters such as HP, LSI Logic, and Left Hand Networks are finding themselves in a more crowded room, as many other vendors are introducing a bagful of SAS-based storage devices for SME customers just before year's end. 

SGI, for example, was quick to follow up on those arrays from LSI Logic we discussed last week. On Monday, they announced their own product line, the InfiniteStorage 220, which is based essentially on the same arrays as LSI Logic's product.

Going back a few days, Dell captured the stage at the end of last week with two storage announcements: the PowerVault NX1950, a unified file and volume serving appliance; and the PowerVault MD3000, a direct attached SAS array. Here's a lovely photo of the two boxes, in case you want a closer look.

If you're wondering if (and how) the NX1950 relates to the low-end Clariion that Dell OEMs for EMC, the answer is … it doesn't. In fact, the Dell-EMC arrays don't have a built-in file server and can serve only volumes, not shares, to application servers.

Nevertheless, the NX1950 is the result of a partnership, this time with Microsoft, and it runs Microsoft's Windows-based storage server OS. Why am I not calling that server by its common name? Because Microsoft changed the name of its storage server one more time, and now it has become (take a deep breath before saying it) Microsoft Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003, or WUDSS (pronounced like "woods") for short. 

There is a good recap of WUDSS, straight from the horse's mouth, here. If you are familiar with the previous version, Windows Storage Server 2003, then add a few things, including access from a Java console; easier, more wizard-intensive configuration; and iSCSI target capabilities, and you'll have a good picture of WUDSS.

It's worth pointing out that Java console access means that WUDSS can be managed also from a non-Windows machine, which I believe is a first for Redmond.

So, what's the big deal with NX1950? For starters, Microsoft gets another outlet for its Storage Server line. As for Dell, they bring to market a new, aggressive product in a segment where they are in a cutthroat competition with rival HP. 

Vendor squabbles aside, customers benefit by getting another reasonably priced and easy to deploy unified storage solution that also promises to scale well. The NX1950 can be deployed as a single server or a two-node clustered head, and can attach as many as three extension modules and 45 drives -- although some of these features, such as clustering, won't be available until next year.

Painting a picture of the NX1950 is easy enough, but giving a fair and distinct summary of the MD3000 that goes beyond what's in the press release is more challenging. Dell tells me that the arrays scored exceptionally well with performance benchmarks, but those results are not available yet for publishing and probably won't be until next year.

I'm going to close this year's Storage Insider on that note, with a heartfelt "thank you" for following along the hectic storage path of 2006 and an "arrivederci" in 2007. Storage Insider will return at the end of the month with more insider info on storage news. Happy holidays!

Join me on The Storage Network with questions or comments.

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